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Diarrhea vaccine one step closer after Finnish tourist trials

A vaccine for diarrhea could be a step closer after 700-odd Finns volunteered for a clinical trial.

Miehestä vessanpöntöllä näkyvät jalat ja kädet, joilla vetää vessapaperia rullasta.
Diarrhea is common in some parts of the world. Image: Rex Features / AOP

Results from a Finnish-led trial of a diarrhea vaccine are positive, according to the researchers behind the project.

From July 2017 some 729 people travelled from Finland to the village of Grand Popo in Benin. They each paid 1,600 euros for the holiday, but there was a catch: they had to join a clinical trial for a vaccine against diarrhea.

Half the tourists were given the vaccine candidate and half took a placebo.

The goal was to have them spend time in a place where ETEC bacteria is endemic and see how many got sick and how many were protected.

The results show the vaccine offered 56 percent protection against the most severe diarrhea cases, regardless of which bacteria causes them.

The goal was 70 percent, but chief researcher Anu Kantele from Helsinki University says that may have been missed because the tourists were exposed to many different diarrhea-causing bacteria at the same time, causing a lot of multiple simultaneous infections.

ETEC was present in samples from 75 percent of the most serious cases. In all, 61 percent of the trial subjects got diarrhea.

The vaccine was developed by Scandinavian Biopharma, a Swedish firm. It aims to help travellers and locals alike avoid diarrhea in areas where the bacteria are common.

The vaccine is also being tested among children in The Gambia, and Scandinavian Biopharma says it will now plan phase three trials.

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